"Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" - Patrick Henry, 1775
by Shezena T. Mohammed
What would you do?
What would you do if someone came to your house in the middle of the night with a bulldozer and started tearing down your house while you and your children slept inside? What would you do if the fields that have taken generations for your family to grow were torn down in a single night to pave a road? As Americans, it is unimaginable that we would stand by and allow others to take away and destroy what we have worked so hard to make. Yet the American public is dismayed when people who are being victimized in this manner defend themselves and fight for what is theirs.
I have always heard that the problem that most Americans have with the Palestinians is that they can't understand suicide bombers. They cannot understand why someone would want to kill himself to hurt others. But what would you do if you had nothing to defend yourself with? What if there was no way for you to fight back; what would you do? Could you stand by and watch your life being torn away before your very eyes and do nothing about it?
We are taught in Islam that we should want for our brothers and sisters what we want for ourselves. I am very comfortable sitting here writing this column in a warm house with a computer in front of me and perhaps my only annoyance being my little sister trying to find toys underneath my soft chair. And I am sure most people reading this column are not living in a refugee camp where there is not enough food to eat. Most of you are in relatively safe and secure environments.
Of course any one of us would want the same security and comfort for our brothers and sisters in Palestine, but how can we be sincere if we don't even want them to protect themselves and their families in the only way they can?
It is very well known that killing innocent people is completely against Islam and a very grave sin. It says in the Qur'an who ever kills a person for unjust reasons is like he killed all of humanity. Each Israeli killed who is not a combatant is unjustly killed. Even though the Israeli civilians are not as innocent as it would seem because each one who lives there knows the blood that was spilt to steal that land, and in Islam that is reason enough for a war, there are still women and children there and by what our Prophet Muhammad SAW told us, they must not be killed during this war.
I believe in the right of the Palestinians to fight to get back what is theirs and to stop the genocide of their people. What more noble Muslim than one who is willing to give his life in the name of Islam. I cannot support them though, when they target or even know that there might be the possiblility of women and children in harm's way. It might seem in this matter that there is a fine line between a martyr and a murderer, but there isn't. Women and children are not to be harmed, period.
"Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death"
It is not a custom of Muslims to sit silently while they are being oppressed and killed, even if we have to die doing something about it. I find it unbearable to think that they must go to such limits in order to try to stop the destruction of their lives. And even more unbearable to think that if this is the only way they have to defend themselves, and that we would criticize them for it.
No one wants his brother to die and that is what each of those young men are to us, our brothers, but I can't help but wonder what else a dying race could possibly do. Suffer silently and hope their oppressors will change? Passive tolerance of oppression is not our way in Islam. "Give me liberty or give me death." Somehow when uttered by Patrick Henry, one of America's founding fathers, it is seen as a heroic statement, but when said by the Palestinian people that's a whole different story it seems. But that has to be what the Palestinian people live by. If not, then they continue to be oppressed.
What you can do
Considering what an important issue this is and how much suffering the Palestinians are going through everyday, I can't help but wonder what the Muslims in the US and around the world are doing about it. The change found in the sofa cushions doesn't count and unless we start doing something serious about it, nothing will change. If the situation were solved then these men would not have to go to such great and unbearable lengths to protect themselves. The Messenger of Allah (saws) said that if you see something wrong, you should correct it with your hand. If you are not able to, then speak out against it. If you cannot, then feel that it is wrong in your heart. But really though, what can we do? Well, I'll remind you...
A message to the youth
The issues that play themselves out now will create the world that we, the youth, will have to deal with. The world that they are paving right now is the world that you and me are going to have to live in. There is no getting out. This is the world that every teenager, child, and baby is going to have to deal with when it becomes our turn to lead the world. What happens now has very much to do with us. Whatever happens, we will have to deal with the repercussions, that's just the way it is. If conditions worsen, the world will be worse not only for them, but for us too. We may not be able to stop what is going on in Palestine with our hands, but I believe we are capable of changing it by speaking out against it and if we do as our Prophet SAW commanded us to, we can change this crisis and make a better world for them and us right now.